In the immortal words of HBO commentator Jim Lampley who announced the fight live at ringside, “It happened.”
Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, at 45, had regained not just a share of the title but the lineal heavyweight championship of the world.
The impossible dream had happened.
Let’s cycle back to the early 1990s. George Foreman, who ended his ten-year hiatus from the ring in 1987, had been incessantly ridiculed by the boxing community and mainstream sports fans despite producing KO after KO, albeit less-than-superstar opposition.
And while ‘Big George’ fought journeyman and woefully outgunned opponents early on he, unbeknownst to many back then, was slowly and deliberately increasing his level of opposition as he climbed the heavyweight ratings.
From March 9, 1987 to January 15, 1990 (just 2.8 years), Big George went 20-0, 19 KOs. But the more acclaim he received, the louder were his critics.
“He’s a farce,” many in the media and some longtime experts said. “This fat guy is nothing but a circus sideshow.”
By the time he stepped in the ring with then-undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in 1991, Foreman was 23-0, 19 KO on his comeback and 69-2 overall. Despite losing a clear-cut 12-round decision, Big George fought well, absorbed tremendous punishment, and dished out a fair share of his own on the young champion.
…. Finally, George had earned the public’s respect. And given the amount of wealth he’d generated on his comeback, he could have retired but one thing still eluded him – The Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Foreman vs Moorer
The year is 1994 and southpaw Michael Moorer (then 35-0, 30 KO) had just upset Holyfield to become the new heavyweight champion. Moorer was not a crowd-pleasing or charismatic champion. And he didn’t possess the power of Mike Tyson or the speed and willingness to mix it up of Holyfield.
Known for his curt, very blunt answers to questions, Moorer was a former light heavyweight champion who’d climbed to heavyweight, crossed his t’s and dotted his i’s along the way, and won the title. A solid fighter with good speed and a formidable – but not great – heavyweight punch, Michael, by and large, was a placeholder champion of sorts.
Since the loss to Holyfield in 1991, Foreman continued on his quest to get another title shot, notching tough wins over top, high-flight contenders Alex Stewart and Pierre Coetzer. But in 1993, Foreman would lose for only the fourth time in his career. Knockout artist Tommy Morrison, with a different game plan than most had expected, used his speed and movement – instead of his punching power and aggression – to outbox and outfox a cumbersome Foreman over 12 rounds.
It seemed Foreman’s quest to regain the heavyweight title had been derailed for good until HBO and Team Moorer obliged the legend’s request for one more shot.
Coming off a loss, George wasn’t deserving of the Moorer fight but was a popular celebrity, a boxing legend, a folk hero of sorts, and a legitimate top 10 contender.
Moreover, Morrison, who’d defeated Foreman the previous year, had been subsequently knocked out in one round against a relative unknown so Moorer vs Morrison had no traction.
Foreman vs Moorer Tale of the Tape
George was seemingly the perfect fit at the time. Promoters knew Foreman vs Moorer would perform well at the box office and Team Moorer assumed they’d get an easy first title defense for their young champion. After all, Foreman was 45 and 19 years Moorer’s senior.
Michael Moorer vs George Foreman
Billing: One for the Ages
Titles: WBA/IBF/Lineal Heavyweight Championships
Champion: Michael Moorer
Date: November 5, 1994
Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
In total contrast to his title-losing showdown with Muhammad Ali in Zaire 20 years prior, Foreman entered the MGM Grand to cheers. This time, he was the “good guy” on fight night. George was the overwhelming crowd favorite while Moorer, who in some ways represented a modern-day throwback to Foreman at the time, was viewed as the villain.
For nine rounds, Moorer easily outboxed George, hitting and moving away, while Foreman chugged forward, seemingly unable to “pull the trigger” on his punches. But George, whose face started to reflect the clean shots he was taking, had remained calm and constantly applied pressure on the new champion throughout.
To the casual observer, he looked like a desperate, ploidy, old man; But years later Foreman insisted he was slowly but surely drawing Moorer into the range to land a fight-ending right hand.
As the rounds went by, Moorer, gaining a false sense of security, had started to get more comfortable absorbing George’s blows.
In pursuit of a knockout, himself, Michael, in Round 8, sat on his shots and was content to trade with the heavy-handed Foreman who took a beating in that stanza.
“I think the myth of George’s power has been exposed,” stated HBO commentator and Hall of Fame trainer Gil Clancy in the mid to late rounds.
“He no longer has the speed to generate the force to knock someone out.”
Entering the tenth round, Foreman was trailing on all scorecards.
The time had come for George Foreman to go for the knockout against his tiring opponent.
Foreman, who came out blazing in Round 10, hit Moorer with a number of long-range jabs. Then, suddenly, a short right hand caught Moorer on the tip of his chin, gashing open his bottom lip as he collapsed to the canvas. He lay flat on his back as the referee counted him out.
Almost 20 years to the day of losing his title to the great Muhammad Ali, George Foreman was a champion again.
And to this day, Foreman vs Moorer remains one of the great moments in sports history.
“They say a fighter’s power is the last thing that leaves him, but in the case of George Foreman, it was every bit his will and his guile as it was his punching power that secured his great victory on this night.”
– Alden Chodash, TheFightCity
Foreman vs Moorer stats & facts
- Moorer was a 3-to-1 betting favorite.
- Moorer made $7 million. Foreman received $3 million.
- The fight aired live on HBO.
- Foreman became the oldest boxer in history to win the World Heavyweight Championship at age 45.
- The fight was named The Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year for 1994.
- Foreman received The Ring Magazine Comeback of the Year Award for 1994.
- Foreman vs Moorer scoring: Michael was ahead 88–83 twice and 86–85 at the time of the stoppage
- Afterward, Moorer admitted that he was basically out on his feet before the dramatic short right hand that placed him on the canvas.
- Foreman was stripped by the WBA in early 1995 for choosing to make his first title defense against Axel Schulz instead of Tony Tucker, the #1 WBA contender.
Foreman vs Moorer highlights